Reflections

An April Morning…Springtime?

Time flows more quickly with age, I am certain of it. Can it be seven long months since spring flirted, with a bit of sunshine and handfuls of mayflies between her bouts of wind and snow? It seems only days since I brushed off the remnants of yesterday’s snow and eased into the river with a dry fly secured to my leader. The chill of the water worked its way into my bones as I waited, but anticipation warmed me when those first Quill Gordons appeared in the drift!

Hendricksons followed, big ruddy duns fluttering as they bounced downstream in the roiling currents. It was a good hatch, much better than I expected, though a single trout came up to enjoy it with me. I will remember that fish, as he bent the rod heavily and caused my reel to shriek as he bolted down river, all the river’s thousand CFS of flow behind him. He was energized despite the high, cold water, and battled me for some time. I had him close at last, barely half of my leader between him and my rod tip, when a little jump let the hook fall free!

April’s weather remained skittish, with the rivers getting colder rather then warmer, but the flies still danced upon the surface, as many fine trout danced at the end of my line. I found solitude and rising trout from the drift boat, riding the high flows of springtime and longing for May sunshine and the greening of the mountains. May snowfall preceded that sunshine, as the weather roller coaster of a Catskill spring continued.

Just when the calendar promised the grand blossoming of the season, the wind, weather and crowded rivers returned a lull in activity. I searched for the rising trout I craved in vain most days, until at last soft June arrived with fair sulfurs on warm afternoons. At last the largest browns appeared eager for the dry fly, and I was blessed!

Too long to allow me to frame his portrait in the shallow water, two feet of brown trout recovers from challenging my arc of bamboo on a blissful day of days.

June was a beautiful whirlwind for me, with great battles won and lost, and moments of quiet reflection as the sunlight brought a glow to bright varnish over flamed bamboo; ’till summer came and brought change once again. Hot days and hot nights lingered, and rain, precious rain seemed the stuff of lost dreams.

A beautiful brown, one of several that came to net on a cloud washed June evening, when the sulfurs brought the big ones to the top!

I have grown to love summer in the Catskills, waiting with great anticipation for retirement and my move here to allow me to savor its beauty day after day. I learned much last year, my first full summer of fishing, yet there was more to learn this year. Each season upon the rivers is different, the weather always seems to defy the norms, and the habits of the trout change with Nature’s ballet, as the flies vary in species, size and intensity. It is a grand theatre to study and enjoy!

Once I learned enough of the new patterns and textures of summer 2020, the rivers offered up their gifts once again. I adapted as the changes came, avoiding the crowds of visitors that the insanity of this pandemic year sent fleeing to the mountains. I have always sought solitude on the rivers, but this year it was more a daily necessity than an occasional desire.

Summer mornings brought reacquaintance with the tiny flies I fished two decades ago on the Pennsylvania limestoners. I enjoyed fishing tricos once again, adored the frustration of fishing flying ants on size 28 hooks with trout boiling all around me.

Once again I stalked summer’s low, clear waters with terrestrials, fine tippets, and light bamboo rods. When my stalks were successful, the rewards were sublime. When success eluded me, knowledge was my reward.

As summer faded to bright autumn I finally had the chance to fish with my best friend. Mike and I have fished together regularly for twenty years, talked frequently, but travel restrictions and common sense kept us apart until late September. It was beautiful along the Delaware, wading cool water on bright, warm afternoons and watching eagles soar as color gathered amid the forests lining the river. Success came in small doses under the most challenging fishing conditions of the year, but it did come.

Mike Saylor with a hard won, muscular Delaware rainbow that picked tiny naturals from a bubble line for what seemed like days before inhaling just the right wisp of silk and fur wound on a size 22 hook!

October has always been a favorite month, and this one was perhaps the most gorgeous I can recall! I was surprised to still find tricos after several frosts, and became amazed at just how picky our wild trout can be when such tiny fare becomes their daily bread. Late in the month, when I thought all hope of dry fly fishing had vanished, I was graced with rare moments, gifts from the rivers of my heart.

Reflections – moments that will remain with me throughout the long months of winter and throughout all the years of my life; the memories of a grand season.

They say we will have a warm winter in the East, so there may just be a bit of light amid the darkness of an angler’s winter. Who can tell. I know that my hope for adventures with the dry fly must wait until April nevertheless.

As I sit at the bench through the coldest, most blustery days to come, mixing fur, feathers and steel with a bit of hope and magic, I will let those reflections of the season wash over me, bringing the soft glow of amber sunlight to my eyes and joy to my heart!

Photo courtesy Chuck Coronato, Catskill Fly Tyers Guild

One thought on “Reflections

  1. Good morning Mark, well the entire season has passed and we still have not met ! Oh well perhaps sometime this winter we can meet and talk of springs to come and the beauty of Dennis’ rods. Stay safe and please keep writing,you make my day with each new entry. Mike

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